1 in 3 women in Belgium has been a victim of intimate partner violence 

Just over 30 per cent of women in Belgium have been victims of intimate partner violence at some point, according to a report by Statistics Flanders and others. Outside of a romantic relationship, one in five women has experienced violence. There are big differences between the regions. 

Whether the violence is psychological, physical, sexual or harassment-related, and whether it happens in private, at work or in public spaces, women are more exposed to violence than men, and that violence is more frequent and more severe. This is according to the Belgian results of a European survey on violence against women and other forms of interpersonal violence. 

Victims of sexual violence, for example, are almost exclusively women. About one in 13 women in Belgium has been subjected to it. When it comes to physical violence, too, women are also more represented than men. About 15 per cent of women reported having experienced physical violence from an intimate partner. Women are also more likely to report severe physical violence.

Moreover, the survey shows that women who are victims of intimate partner violence often experience multiple types of violence. For 93 per cent of female victims of physical partner violence, for example, the violence was accompanied by psychological violence. Sixty-nine per cent of women who have been victims of sexual violence experienced both physical and psychological violence. 

Vulnerable positions

Not all women are exposed to violence in the same way. The study shows that violence is more prevalent among women in vulnerable positions. These include women who are unable to work or are unemployed and who have poor health or are in financial difficulty.

Among women with a combination of these characteristics, almost half (45 per cent) report having experienced sexual violence from a partner. Of these women, 35 per cent say they have experienced sexual violence from a non-partner.

The report does not show a causal relationship between those socio-economic factors and the risk of violence, but, the report says, some elements have made certain categories of women more vulnerable than others. 

Regional differences

There are significant differences between Belgium's regions. The percentage of women who are victims of psychological, physical or sexual partner violence is higher in Wallonia (42.5 per cent) and Brussels (33.7 per cent) than in Flanders (24.7 per cent). For other forms of violence, the figures in Brussels and Wallonia are also higher than in Flanders. 

Again, the socio-economic situation of the victims plays a role to some extent. In the report, the percentage of women suffering from a difficult financial situation, poor health or unemployment is much higher in Wallonia and Brussels than in Flanders. 

The survey was conducted by Statistics Flanders and others between July 2021 and August 2022 among a representative sample of the Belgian population aged between 18 and 74. The survey was co-financed by Flemish ministers Gwendolyn Rutten, Hilde Crevits and Zuhal Demir. In response to the results, they said the report would be used to take targeted measures tailored to the target groups who face gender-based violence.


#FlandersNewsService | ​Event against domestic violence in Aalst, November 2020, after former Aalst mayor Uyttersprot was killed by her partner © BELGA PHOTO DIRK WAEM

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